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BOC hears recommendations from committee on organizational changes

A citizen’s committee formed six months ago presented its recommendations to the Newton County Board of Commissioners Tuesday night.

The Form of Government Committee’s recommendations would affect the position of chairman, county manager and the commissioners. In the report, the committee recommends that while the chair continue to serve as Chief Executive Officer for the county, operational, supervisory and most financial duties would be transferred to the County Manager.

Ronnie Cowan, chair of the committee, said, “Newton County, as created, had a chairman who operated as the chief executive officer. When the population was 30,000, that model worked just fine, but Newton County has [a population of] over 100,000.”

Addressing the difficulties delineated organizational authority with the current structure, “the Committee agrees that a professional County Manager is needed to properly direct the county on a daily basis,” the report said. “The Committee considers the County Chairman and the County Manager to be a team that must work in concert with each other.”

If the Form of Government recommendations are adopted, the chair would serve as the official liaison to other governments, agencies, industrial/business prospects and the local chamber of conference, the committee recommended.

“With all due respect to the District Commissioners and their role in serving their districts, it is the Chairman who is the ‘political’ face of Newton County,” the report said.

The chair would continue to co-sign checks, approve purchases, and execute contracts, resolutions and other documents as approved by the Board of Commissioners.

Those present at the work session seemed to find granting the chair veto power the most controversial suggestion coming out of the report. The chair would have the power to veto the commissioner’s vote. The committee made veto power contingent upon the adoption of a way for the Commissioners to override the veto.

The chair would also be responsible for presenting qualified candidates to the Board for the city manager position.

The county manager would have authority over all county personnel, except elected officials and employees of the Tax Assessor’s Office; have authority over all county operations, including roads and bridges; is expected to present a preliminary budget to the Board of Commissioners no later than 120 prior to the end of the fiscal year; and would report to the chair on day-to-day operations.

Among the commissioners’ responsibilities, if the recommendations are adopted, would be to establish a procedure by supermajority for override of the chair’s veto; conduct interviews and appoint a county manager from a list of qualified candidates submitted by the chair; establish procedures for malfeasance, neglect or dereliction of duties by the chair or any commissioner.

Because local county elections will be held in 2016, Cowan urged the Commissioners to update enabling legislation as soon as practical and submit them during the 2016 Legislative Session of Georgia General Assembly, becoming effective Jan. 1, 2017. Candidates for local county positions would have adequate notice of the proposed changes.

The members of the Form of Government Committee were Cowan, Wesley Dowdy, Gladstone Nicholson, Buddy Morgan, Marcello Banes and Junior Hilliard.